Documentation is important to any business. To managed services providers (MSPs) it is even more so. So much of what we do as technicians depends on access to configurations, credentials, and defined processes. To not have access to that information wastes time and potentially introduces errors that can have significant consequences for our customers. Unfortunately, we also operate in an environment where every minute counts, so we have the tendency to want to fix a problem then move on to the next as quickly as possible, which means that documenting what we’ve done either gets rushed or left to the end of the day when things may be forgotten.
So, how does the IT service provider incentivize their employees to take the time to properly document everything?
First step is to make it easy. Have a system, tool, or process that makes capturing documentation easy. One word of caution here: do not sacrifice efficiency for security. Much of the documentation you will collect is highly sensitive and could be used by the wrong person to compromise you or your clients’ systems. Make sure you have a tool specifically designed for this purpose (SolarWinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager is a good example here).
The second step is to create guidelines and rules on what needs to be documented. Make sure your employees know what is expected of them. It should be a part of their goals and annual review process. Make sure they know how important it is to do this part of their job by placing value on it in terms of goals that align to performance reviews you base promotions and raises on. These rules and guidelines are important because without them, you cannot create those goals or incentivize behavior accurately.
The third step is to incentivize the proper behavior. We defined the proper behaviors in the second step. Now use those definitions to reward employees for the right behaviors. If you have been around long enough in this business, you probably remember yourself or another provider offering technicians rewards for highest billable hours, getting a client to agree to some new project, or getting a new customer from a referral. Some of you may still have some of those in place.
In this age of managed services where efficiency is king, we must develop new incentives to drive behaviors that benefit the business in ways that align to this new business model. Just like commissions for salespeople, incentives for technicians can either drive the right behaviors or the wrong ones. Make sure your incentive plan drives the right behaviors and eliminates as many loopholes as you can.
Chances are you will have to adjust over time as employees find ways to gain the system. A word of advice: never make an employee pay for your mistake in a compensation or incentive plan. Pay it out and then change the plan so it can’t happen again.
As many of you switch from manual documentation to a tool, there is a significant amount of work to get your old documentation into the new system. The better you incentivize this the quicker it will get done and the quicker you will start leveraging the benefits of having secure but easy-to-access documentation.
As more IT service providers are targeted for their access to multiple client systems, the more important it becomes to properly manage that data and access. Make sure you have the right level of security on your documentation and that everyone who needs access to it can get it as efficiently as possible.
The quickest way to get to your goal and keep that documentation up-to-date is to incentivize your people to do it properly. Incentive plans can be tricky but when well conceived and maintained, they bring more than their face value back to the business in terms of ROI.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP